The narrative has served China well in gaining benefits from other countries, but appears increasingly untenable as Beijing seeks to be treated as an equal by the US. The Biden administration is not naive, and is prepared to respond to the challenges with realism rather than idealism.
Fear and loathing are widespread among US voters as the polling industry and mainstream media have fallen short. Even so, the country has consistently shown an ability to weather times of tumult and reinvent itself.
Backed by a strong bipartisan consensus, Donald Trump has taken a scorched-earth approach to China. But Beijing has also indicated it will not make concessions, which doesn’t bode well for bilateral ties even if Joe Biden wins the election.
The former US vice-president now looks the strongest contender for the Democratic nomination after his Super Tuesday victories. But even if he goes on to beat Trump, a return to the China-friendly policies of the Obama era seems unlikely.
From diplomatic hysterics to displays of Chinese patriotism on foreign soil, China’s influence campaign has turned public opinion and forced governments to defend their values and readjust relations.
It is in the interests of both Taiwan and the US to hew to a force-deterrent policy to turn China towards a peaceful cross-strait reconciliation. For the US, it is also a sign to its allies of its dependability and commitment to regional stability.
Fears are growing of a global recession as the world’s two largest economies remain deadlocked. Xi appears to have little support in Beijing for structural changes, while Trump’s team insists reform of the Chinese economy is the only acceptable outcome.
US companies should consider expanding supply chains and export markets outside China and moving critical manufacturing back to the US. They have a role to play in protecting the national interest.
The US has its own narrative of victimisation to counter the Chinese one: it sees itself as the victim of intellectual property theft. The arrest of Meng Wanzhou is just the biggest case, so far, in the Justice Department’s China Initiative.
The Chinese president should direct his party to address the issues of fairness and reciprocity that America has raised. The US is determined to compete, but Beijing can still find areas of compromise if it puts its mind to it.
Donald Trump’s cancellation of a nuclear treaty with Russia is also aimed at China; US and China militaries need to forge a pact to enhance regional security.
Beijing has it wrong if it thinks Trump’s trade strategy is about containment, or a spillover of domestic politics. Rather, the president believes China will back down and create a level playing field for US companies, or firms will source imports from elsewhere.